Illinois Public Media News
Little has been released regarding a police video of an arrest made last summer by Champaign Police, but City Manager Steve Carter says a possible investigation by state police could start later this week.
Carter wouldn't elaborate on what he calls 'troubling' behavior by a city police officer on June 5, other than to say pepper spray was used and the officer's tactics were in question. Police department personnel investigated, and Chief R.T. Finney issued a finding that the officer's actions regarding 'use of force" were within police and training standards.
"The responsibility of ensuring a complete and accurate investigation into the actions of police department personnel falls solely within my office as the Chief of Police," Finney said in a statement. "I continue to have complete support and confidence in the men and women who work at the Champaign Police Department."
The names of the officer and Champaign man arrested haven't been released. Although the incident happened in June, Carter only saw the in-car video last Wednesday - brought to his attention by Councilman Tom Bruno. Carter said the primary goal is seeing this case resolved, so there is justice for both the individual and the officer.
"These are very difficult circumstances, and we'll want to take a look at what's the right thing to come out of this for both of those," Carter said. "So, the individual case needs to be resolved for sure. Wherever that leads us is where we need to go. "
Carter said the broader issue is that of policy related to use of force, and how it impacts police complaints. He said that is why outside experts will be brought in to review that policy.
Bruno said he is waiting for a thorough investigation to take place before he jumps to any conclusions about whether excessive force was used in the arrest. He added that this case could have an impact on discussions about a possible citizens police review board:
"When the decision is made to pursue with the idea of a citizens review board - it's instances like this that the public and the city council will take into consideration to determine whether a citizen's review board would be a helpful tool," Bruno said.
There have been new calls for a citizens police review board in Champaign in the wake of the 2009 police shooting death of teenager, Kiwane Carrington. A number of citizens also allege officers beat 18-year old Calvin Miller on the night of his arrest on the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2011.
Champaign City Council member Will Kyles brought up the idea last month of creating a committee to review complaints against the Champaign Police Department. After watching the police video, Kyles questions whether excessive force was used, and that may justify the need for a citizens' police review panel.
"This is an example of why we should have a police citizen review board, and kind of look at these issues," he said. "That is a great argument. Me being the person that brought the citizen review board back up."
Carter and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz met with State Police on Friday. He said they will decide in a few days whether to investigate the incident.
At the request of the individual's family, there are no current plans to release the police video to the media or public. However, Illinois Public Media has filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain footage from the police dash camera.
The city is also in the process of seeking a new police chief. Finney announced last summer that he was retiring, and Deputy Chief Holly Nearing will take over as interim chief on Dec. 5. Both staffing changes aren't related to the June 5 arrest, according to Carter.
Last week, Carter announced four finalists for the police department's top chief.
Related Video: Champaign City Manager Steve Carter talks about the incident
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has given Illinois its highest rating for the state's efforts to combat impaired driving.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he's glad the organization has recognized Illinois "as a national leader in the fight against drunk driving.''
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, alcohol-related crash deaths have dropped by more than 38 percent since White took office.
IDOT reports there were 711 alcohol-related crash deaths in 1999, compared to 436 last year.
This marks the 5th year that MADD has released a national and state rankings report.
The group's rating system focused on efforts including sobriety checkpoints, enhanced penalties for people who drive drunk with children in the vehicle, among other measures.
Illinois education officials have taken another step toward dramatically overhauling the way principals and teachers are evaluated.
The Illinois State Board of Education on Friday gave preliminary approval to rules that would require that student performance be taken into account when evaluating public school educators.
The rules now go out for public comment, and the board will reconsider them for final approval after the first of the year.
Officials say the change is part of a national trend as more states link educator performance evaluations to how students are doing.
All Illinois schools are making the change under the Performance Evaluation Reform Act signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010. The legislation was the result of discussions between administrators, teachers, legislators and unions.
A trial to decide a Republican lawsuit over the state's new Democrat-drawn congressional map has ended in federal court in Chicago.
The decision now rests with a three-judge panel that promised to work "very hard.'' Deadlines are looming to file petitions for next year's U.S. House races, although the judges seem inclined to push them back.
Prominent Republicans, including all but one Republican congressman from Illinois, have sued to stop the Democrats' map. Republicans say it will decimate their recent gains in Congress and dilute Latino voting influence.
Attorneys representing the state defended the map and said it didn't deprive Latinos of their voting strength. They stressed Latino lawmakers and some interest groups support the new map.
The losing side can eventually appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chicago-based Exelon is a step closer to becoming one of the largest power companies in the country. Shareholders of Exelon and its rival, Constellation Energy, approved a merger Thursday. Exelon is the parent company of Commonwealth Edison.
Analyst Travis Miller with Morningstar predicts the merger will bring new jobs to Illinois and benefit consumers. "You know a larger company offers cost savings that can flow to ComEd and reduce the infrastructure portion of consumer bills," Miller said.
Miller predicts the merger will be finalized by early 2012, but it still needs approval from regulators.
Meantime, Illinois' attorney general is criticizing the deal. Lisa Madigan's office is concerned about what would happen to electricity prices if the merger goes through.
The Champaign County Board has passed a resolution to name Urbana's federal courthouse after the county's first African-American elected official.
James Burgess was selected as state's attorney in 1972.
The 19-to-8 vote means a resolution with Burgess' name will be passed on to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, and Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson with hopes of gaining their approval. Burgess' son, Steve Burgess, told the board last night he's already talked with two of those three.
"I am waiting for a decision from Senator Durbin whether or not - not to say it's going to happen, but at least make a decision whether he thinks this is the right thing to by introducing a bill," he said. "He may ultimately decide that it's not, and I'm okay with that. But I think I'm at least entitled to having a decision from them, yes or no."
Burgess' effort to place his late father's name on the courthouse has lasted more than a year. Democrat Tom Betz said he knew and admired Burgess, but says the method for placing any name on a building is flawed.
"I have slowly but surely reached the conclusion that it's such a divisive process that we would be wise not to actually name some of these buildings," he said. "Call it what it is - it's the United States District Court for this district. Just as it's the Champaign County Courthouse. I don't think it needs to bear any name other than that at this point."
Burgess, who died in 1997, was a Democrat. But Betz and four other Democrats voted against the measure: Geraldo Rosales, Lloyd Carter, Ralph Langenheim, and Pattsi Petrie. Republicans Diane Michaels, Ron Bensyl, and Steve Moser also opposed it.
Democrat Chris Alix suggested the idea. He calls Burgess an inspirational story for not only his time as a state's attorney and US Attorney during the 70's and 80's, but as a World War II veteran with the 761st Tank Battalion.
(Photo Courtesy of Museum of the Grand Prairie, Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive)
A research project studying a method to keep carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere got down to business this week. After three years of preparations, the Illinois Basin-Decatur project began injecting CO2 from an ethanol plant into the ground more than a mile deep.
Robert Finley with the Illinois Geological Survey at the University of Illinois' Prairie Research Institute said the CO2 injections will continue for another three years, until a million metric tons of the gas is embedded in the massive Mount Simon underground sandstone formation. Finley said Mount Simon offers a big potential at a place for storing CO2 emissions.
"The Mt Simon sandstone at Decatur is 1,650 feet thick, and we'll be storing only in the lower several hundred feet of this unit, and this rock unit is quite laterally extensive," Finley explained. "It covers most of Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky."
The Illinois Basin-Decatur project is located on the Archer Daniels Midland campus in Decatur, and uses CO2 from an ADM ethanol plant. The U of I's Illinois State Geological Survey is the lead agency for the project, which is one of seven around the country funded by the U-S Department of Energy, and the second to begin actual sequestration. Finley said the carbon sequestration process has started smoothly --- and the long-term question is whether the gas can be pumped underground continuously without leaking.
He said their findings will be applied to another, larger carbon sequestration project, for which ADM is taking the lead. A training and education center for the larger project is being built at Decatur's Richland Community College.
Eventually, Finley said the experience and knowledge gained from the projects at Decatur can help other carbon sequestration projects --- like the FutureGen project which will bury CO-2 emissions from a coal plant in western Illinois.
Illinois beat Lipscomb 79 to 64 Thursday night, before about 6,000 fans who braved freezing winds to watch the latest installment of the Cancun Challenge at the Assembly Hall.
Lipscomb kept the game close in the first half. Junior forward Tyler Griffey says his team wasn't collecting enough hustle points -- for steals, charges-taken and turnovers -- what's known as the Matto chart after the late Matt Heldman.
"We only had 17 on the Matto, and ended up with 45," said Griffey, "So that (the team) was really stressed at the halftime peptalk. We came out, we had to play harder. Just do the little things. Cut hard, play defense, just get shutouts."
The Illini broke the game open with a 14-0 run, holding the Bison scoreless for nearly six minutes. DJ Richardson and Sam Maniscalco led the Illini with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Illinois is now 2-0 in the Cancun Challenge. Among the spectators was U of I football player Trulon Henry, who was shot in the hand early Sunday morning when a gunman fired into a crowd at a party at a house on South Lincoln Avenue near campus. Two others were injured, one critically. The gunman remains at large.
Also in the challenge Thursday night, Illinois State beat SIU Edwardsville 68 to 38 for their first game in the tournament. ISU plays Lipscomb tomorrow afternoon. And the 8 participating teams continue play in Cancun, Mexico next Tuesday and Wednesday.
(Photo courtesy of Rob McColley, Smile Politely.com)
An unfair labor practice charge has been filed against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the Association of Academic Professionals.
A few months ago, the university began offering a 3 percent raise to its employees, which included about 3,000 academic professionals. The Association of Academic Professionals said the U of I withheld those raises from about 300 visiting academic professionals (VAP), who are in the middle of contract negotiations. Association spokesman Alan Bilansky said that was a violation of an existing agreement that the two sides already hashed out.
Bilansky said the most recent VAP contract doesn't expire until a new contract is in place, and he said the previous agreement allows those employees to participate in the campus salary program.
"Everyone is getting an across the board raise, and the VAPs should be sharing in that," Bilansky said. "We're trying to not let resentment get in the way of negotiating a fair deal, and we are making progress....but there are grumblings from every VAP that I talk to."
Officials representing the university and the visiting academic professionals have been in talks over a new contract for the last several months.
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the previous contract for visiting academic professionals had no pay schedule for annual step increases. She also noted that the university did not guarantee that the recent 3 percent pay increase would apply to all employees.
"Pay rates differ among employees in different departments," Kaler said. "Pay adjustments are decided at the department level and may vary.
A federal prosecutor said Springfield power broker William Cellini should not be getting a new trial. This comes despite revelations a juror in his case lied about her criminal record.
Late Thursday night, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed a legal response saying Cellini's conviction should stand. Fitzgerald argued the juror had her full civil rights because she completed probation for her convictions. He also said even if she were ruled ineligible to serve, Cellini's attorneys would have to prove she deliberately concealed convictions.
Cellini's attorneys contend she was dishonest, making her a biased juror.
The decision on whether or not Cellini gets a new trial is now in the hands of Federal Judge James Zagel.
Cellini this month was convicted of joining a conspiracy to trade state contracts for campaign contributions for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
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